Telia has signed an agreement to sell its stake in Tajikistani operator Tcell to AKFED (the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development).
Amid its broader goal of exiting the Eurasia region, Telia was seeking to divest its holding in Tcell’s controlling body, Central Asian Telecommunications Development. The price agreed with AKFED was $39 million, based on the business having an enterprise value of $66 million. The deal is subject to regulatory approval.
AKFED, an investor focused on the private sector of economies in the developing world, also owns the remaining 40% holding in Central Asian Telecommunications Development. Speaking about the deal, Telia president and CEO Johan Dennelind said: “AKFED has been a significant shareholder in Tcell since inception, and I am convinced they will be able to further develop the company.”
Last year, Telia announced that it intended to withdraw from Eurasia – defined as Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It is currently winding down operations with the end goal of exiting seven markets – a process which it began by selling its stake in Nepal’s Ncell to Malaysia’s Axiata at the end of last year.
Although Telia’s withdrawal from Eurasia has been talked up as a refocus of priorities, the scandals that have plagued the operator in the region cannot be discounted. Telia’s affiliate VimpelCom’s involvement in a bribery scandal in Uzbekistan prompted some high profile sackings at the Scandinavian operator.
Despite the allegations of corruption, Telia still holds a majority stake in Uzbekistan’s Ucell, and its stake in Fintur Holdings gives it a footprint in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Moldova. Fintur is jointly owned by Telia and Turkcell, the latter of which has offered to buy out the former.